Are Atheists “Too Sensitive”? Let’s Flip the Question

Angels in America?

HotAir flags another unsurprisingly short-sighted move by American Atheists: petitioning to change the name of a street — “Seven in Heaven Way,” named for seven local firefighters who died heroically on 9/11 — because it apparently signifies the State’s adoption of the Christian “Heaven” as an official public belief.

For once, HotAir is partially right! This is a ridiculous demand, for its tone-deaf effrontery to the majority, and its blatant misunderstanding of how thoroughly modernity has mainstreamed formerly religious words like “heaven.” (If you’re under any preconception about the routinization of religiosity, I give you DJ Sammy. Or, in the alternative, rewatch Battlestar Galactica, and remind yourself that a reference to “angels” could just as easily be an idiotic plot point as an invocation of Christian seraphim.)

But let’s flip the question, assume atheism qualifies as a unitary belief system, and ask whether other Americans are as overly sensitive about their belief systems, to wit, their religions.

  • Men and women of religious faith, usually Christians, insist that life begins at conception. As such, a doctor receiving state funding cannot so much as mention the word “abortion” to a patient. The Supreme Court agrees.
  • Gay marriage offends the delicate sensibilities of mainline Christians — why, their kids might have to learn that being gay is a thing! (YouTube) This general queasiness is enough for most to justify denying millions of Americans the right to have a family.
  • Fundamentalists view it as their sovereign right to force the entire country to celebrate Christian holidays. Naturally, then, those stores who dare to offer generic “happy holidays” greetings find themselves faced with ridicule, and even boycotts.
Should we go on? How about creationism, and the apparently blatant offensiveness of Thomas Jefferson’s deism? Before talking about the delicate sensibilities of secular Americans, let’s consider just how quickly and thoroughly we cave to religious impulses.


  1. Nah, we’re not too sensitive; we’re just assholes. ;)

    For what it’s worth, there’s a decent contingent of atheists who also think this suit is bullshit, and I agree. If there was evidence one if the seven had been irreligious or simply non-Christian, and if his family wanted to sue, then we’d be in business.

    As it is, the street name is a cultural reference, not really an endorsement or establishment. There are numerous streets in this country named with religious references, and I don’t have a problem with that in general. However, I have an aesthetic problem with this one because it just sounds awkward and tacky.

  2. It DOES sound awkward and tacky. Like “Freedom Tower,” the original name for the WTC replacement. I like freedom as much as the next guy, but ugh. Thankfully it’s back to just “1 World Trade,” which I think sends a better message anyways.

    Also, tackiness is sadly not grounds for suit — otherwise, People of Decency v. Jersey Shore?

    1. Settled out of court for an undisclosed sum of tanning oil.

  3. Some of us are indeed too sensitive. I blame the 20th Century. It taught too many people to be sensitive and made it harder for predators to prey on them as is right and natural.

    But yes, the people responsible for this bullshit suit make the rest of us look bad.

    On the other hand, I disagree about the aesthetics of “Seven in Heaven Way”. Granted, the rhyme is annoying, but “Seven In Paradise” doesn’t sound impressive enough… then again, “Seven Glorious Heroes in Paradise Boulevard” would work. The way I see it, street names should be unique and outlandish. Maybe it’s a reaction to growing up in Atlanta with Peachtree This and Peachtree That all over the place, but I want to have roads with names like Avalanche of Glaciers Highway, or Avenue of the Unholy Wrath of God, or Khan Boulevard.

  4. […] Are Atheists “Too Sensitive”? Let’s Flip the Question […]

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